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Georgia Senate votes on controversial bill to sever ties with American Library Association

Georgia – Georgia is on the brink of severing all ties with the American Library Association (ALA), a decision that could reshape the landscape of public and school libraries across the state. This move, understandably, has sparked a lot of debate across the state in recent weeks since the bill was initially introduced.

The bill, which recently passed the Georgia state Senate with a vote of 33 to 20, is now making its way to the House, signaling a deeper divide over the content available in public libraries, particularly in the children’s sections.

At the heart of the controversy is a growing concern among certain groups that the ALA has adopted a stance they view as overly radical, prompting states like Montana, Missouri, Texas, and South Carolina to reconsider their affiliations with the association. Georgia’s bill, however, goes a step further than any other by mandating that all school and public libraries in the state cut ties with the ALA.

This move is largely fueled by incidents such as a $20,000 grant awarded by the ALA to a local library for diversifying its collection with books on LGBTQ and BIPOC themes, which Republican state Sen. Larry Walker cites as a motivating factor for the legislation. Walker argues that the association’s influence has turned libraries into “political indoctrination centers,” promoting content he considers inappropriate for children.

Georgia wants to completely cut ties with the American Library Association, proposed bill passes Senate and is headed to the State House

The bill’s proponents, including conservative Christian lobbying group Frontline Policy Action, point to the ALA’s leadership and publications as evidence of its political bias. They highlight a decade-old article by ALA President Emily Drabinski, advocating for “queering the catalog” as indicative of the organization’s intent to inject politics into library services.

In response, the ALA defends its position, emphasizing the diversity of political beliefs among its leadership over the years and denying any form of bias. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, warns that cutting ties with the ALA could lead to government censorship, questioning whether libraries will become mere extensions of the state’s political agenda.

The timing of Georgia’s bill has ignited frustration among librarians in the state, who view it as a political attack rather than a policy-driven initiative. Critics, like Georgia state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, argue that the bill would deprive libraries of critical support, from grants and materials to professional development and a national network of peers. The ALA is also noted for being the sole accreditor of university programs in library and information science, raising concerns about the future training of librarians should the bill pass.

As the debate continues, the implications of Georgia’s potential break with the ALA extend far beyond the state’s borders, posing questions about the role of libraries in society and the balance between providing diverse materials and adhering to community standards.

Calliope Hargrave


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